Mega puts marker on island off S’pore

Plaque is erected on Pulau Nipah to reinforce Indonesia’s claim of sovereignty, a minister says.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has reportedly placed a marker on a small island bordering Singapore to reinforce Jakarta’s claims over it.

According to the state Antara news agency, Ms Megawati erected a plaque on Pulau Nipah yesterday.

Indonesian Maritime and Fisheries Minister Rokhmin Dahuri was reported to have said that the move was meant to reinforceJakarta’s claim of sovereignty over the island.

The minister, who is known to take a tough stance on bilateral issues, was quoted in media reports as saying that it was most urgent in the case of Pulau Nipah because of Singapore’s land reclamation policy.

‘Later, if Singapore were to redraw its borders based on its outermost points formed as a result of reclamation, we would definitely lose out,’ he said.

In response to media queries on Mr Rokhmin’s comments, a Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday: ‘There is no issue here as Singapore’s reclamation works are carried out entirely within its territorial waters.

‘Singapore’s reclamation works do not, in any way, alter its maritime boundaries with Indonesia.

‘Singapore has also repeatedly conveyed this point to Indonesian ministers and officials.’

Mr Rokhmin and like-minded officials had complained in the past about illegal sand-mining in and around several Indonesianislands which they said was damaging the environment.

They have also expressed concern that as many of these islands are uninhabited and unmanaged, neighbouring countries could stake a claim, contesting Jakarta’s right to them.

Over the past few months, the Indonesian navy has been establishing border base points on several of these islands to define the country’s outer limits.

An unnamed presidential confidante, when asked to comment on Mr Rokhmin’s claims, said: ‘This is not a serious problem and is not as hostile as the minister makes it out to be.

‘It is part of our ongoing attempts at border demarcation.’

Some political observers see the minister’s comments as part of pre-election nationalist flag-waving ahead of Indonesian parliamentary polls in April.

Jakarta started paying attention to islands along its borders after losing two of them to Malaysia in a World Court decision.

The court in December 2002 ended years of dispute by awarding the Sipadan and Ligitan islands off Borneo to Malaysia because Kuala Lumpur had asserted authority over them since the 1930s.

Jakarta has since announced it will set up a special team to develop 92 islands, some of which sit on its maritime border with neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and Timor Leste.

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